Flow’s First Bite: Specialized S-Works Epic

We’ve assembled, set up and had a couple of quick laps of the race track on the most anticipated arrival to the XC circuit this season, ahead of our full review here’s what we are in for.


Mad light, S-Works light.

10kg (including carbon water bottle cage) is very exciting for a bike you can wheel out of the bike shop, this brings it in line with the top-end Giant Anthem Advanced 0 and Scott Spark RC 900 World Cup, though half-a-kilo lighter than the Cannondale Scalpel Si HiMod Team.

10kg of speed.

How so light? No expense is spared with the S-Works model; carbon wheels, fork crowns, bars, post, saddle, cranks, shifters, brake levers… It’s superior kit and much of it from Specialized’s in-house component line, and wheels from Roval.


What’s new with the frame?

No more FSR suspension, the Horst Link has gone in favour of a one-piece rear end that relies on flex in the carbon (on aluminium Epic model also) instead to drop weight and moving parts from the bike.

The new RockShox Brain 2.0 shock is structurally very different and is mounted right off the back of the bike. Why? We’ll get into more of that in our review. For a quick video from Specialized of the brain’s brain, click here.

The one-piece rear end, lighter, simpler, sleeker.

It’s slacker by a full 1.5 degrees in the head angle, and pair that with a fork offset of only 42mm (regular 29ers tend to be 51mm) the new Epic feels a whole lot less twitchy and nervous than previous models.

A few more modern updates include Boost hub spacing, new internal routing for the cable and brake and it’s dropper post compatible too.


Early impressions?

After only a couple quick rides to dial in the position and suspension setup it’s safe to say a few things; it’s fast, light and begs for more. The brain in the fork sure feels firm even when dialled right back, and out the back, the transition between open and closed is a lot less apparent than earlier models with a useable tuning range via the little blue lever.

New brain location and structure pictured with the rear wheel removed.

 

Putting the hammer down on the Epic is a wonderful experience, it’s efficiency personified, there just is no unwanted loss of energy through the suspension at all.

With a new brain damper and slacker geometry, will the new Epic widen its value to being less limited to the race track? We’re going to find out.


Of course, it’s good, it’s an S-Works.  

Yes, so that’s why this Epic is going in a head to head review with a few other comparable bikes. So far we’ve confirmed the all-new Giant Anthem Advanced 0 and the Scott Spark RC 900 SL, two chart-topping race bikes that will undoubtedly be compared to by eager Australian cross country racers.

So, stay tuned for the ultimate XC race bike battle ever!

All-New Specialized Epic

The paint job on this S-Works model is ridiculous, changing colour like a carbon chameleon.

From our perspective, it feels like cross country is on the ascendency again. The World Cup coverage of XC is superb, huge players like Iron Man and Red Bull are investing in top-tier cross-country events and athletes, and there are loads of brilliant new XC race rigs hitting the market too. In the past 12 months, both the Scott Spark and the Giant Anthem have had a complete overhaul, and now you can add Specialized to that list.

Hey! Where’d your Horst link go?

There are so many changes with the new Epic that we don’t really know where to start. Perhaps we could begin by pointing out that this bike is no longer the Epic FSR – it’s just the Epic. Why? Well, it no longer uses an FSR linkage. For the first time since god knows when, Specialized have ditched the Horst link, a design that has been underpinned their dual suspension bikes for decades.

Another look at that sleek and pivot-less rear end.

Instead, you’ll find a flex stay arrangement. Travel is still 100mm, but dropping a pivot obviously, saves weight, reduces a point of wear and potential flex, and makes for a super stiff rear end laterally. Even the alloy versions of the Epic use a flex stay.

For the first time, RockShox supply the Brain shock for the Epic. The layout and damping has been changed entirely from the previous version.

There have been some absolutely massive weight savings. The mainframe alone is 500g lighter than its predecessor. 500g! That’s like removing the shock, all the pivot hardware and the paint. And that’s just the front end. On the models with a carbon rear end, Specialized have shaved another 200g+. That’s the better part of a kilo chopped from an already light bike.

Specialized’s long-standing partnership with FOX for their Brain shock seems to have come to an end, with RockShox providing the new rear damper across all Epic models. The Brain system is totally revised too, both in terms of structure and damping. The Brain reservoir now rearward of the brake caliper, behind the rear axle. By our reckoning, this should increase the responsiveness of the inertia valve hugely. But what really grabbed us, is the integration of the shock, the linkage and the hose that joins the shock to the Brain unit. The pictures do a better job of telling the tale, but in a nutshell, the linkage forms part of the conduit from shock to Brain, with the damping oil actually running through the linkage. Insane. Brilliant. Sleek as hell.

The hose from the shock to the Brain valve is integrated into the linkage, which becomes an element of the shock itself.

With every iteration of the Brain, Specialized seem to strive to make it feel less intrusive when you don’t want it. While we haven’t ridden the new bike yet (we will soon!) Specialized claim the new Epic has a far more plush ride, closer to that which you’d expect from the Camber.

Of course, the bike uses Boost hub spacing, and like all new bikes, the geometry is slacker and has more reach than before. The head angle is now 69.5 degrees, a full 1.5 degrees more relaxed than the previous Epic. The Epic uses a custom RockShox SID Brain-equipped fork, with just 42mm of offset (compare that to the 51mm found on many 29er). It’ll be interesting to see how this affects the handling, it should make it very stable in theory.

The new cable routing deserves a mention too, running over the top of the bottom bracket shell (which is threaded, not press fit – hooray!), and there are provisions for running a dropper post too, which we think many people will. This bike has a much more ‘trail bike’ kind of vibe to it than earlier Epics, so a dropper would play to those strengths.

Apparently, we’re not going to be waiting long to actually get a ride on this bike too, with stock arriving in July 2017, but prices have been set as below:

S-Works (men’s and women’s) – $12,500

S-Works Epic frameset, including fork – $6500

Epic Expert – $6900

Epic Comp Carbon (men’s and women’s) – $5200

Epic Comp – $3800